Skip to main content

The Wizard of Oz might be a beloved classic movie and has been for more than 80 years. However, despite all the joy the movie has brought over the years, its production is mired in controversy. Numerous dark and depressing stories have emerged from the making of the film. One actor even suffered serious scars on their face as a result of becoming the whimsical character from the novels of L. Frank Baum.

Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, and Jack Haley look at a sign in 'The Wizard of Oz'
Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, and Jack Haley | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

‘The Wizard of Oz’ cast suffered poor treatment on the set

As magical as the land of Oz seems on screen, the cast and crew of the film suffered terrible treatment. Judy Garland — who, of course, plays Dorothy Gale — was reportedly encouraged to take drugs to keep her working during production. And even Terry — the dog who plays Toto — was stepped on and nearly killed.

However, perhaps the most famous element of The Wizard of Oz‘s messy production is how the make-up wreaked havoc on many cast members. Margaret Hamilton and Jack Haley — who play the Wicked Witch of the West and the Tin Man, respectively — both suffered negative health effects from the make-up they wore to become their characters. And they aren’t the only ones to complain about the after-effects.

1 actor in particular was left facially scarred after filming ended

The Wizard of Oz star Ray Bolger too was left with long-lasting effects of his prosthetic make-up. The actor plays the Scarecrow in the film, the first of Dorothy’s companions that she meets. But the iconic design of his character came at a price, according to Good Housekeeping. For more than a year after filming concluded, Bolger was left with a pattern of lines on his face resembling that of his scarecrow make-up.

Ironically, Bolger was originally slated to play the Tin Man, with Buddy Ebsen as the Scarecrow. The two actors eventually swapped roles. But Ebsen got so sick from aluminum poisoning because of the make-up used to transform him into the Tin Man, he had to drop out. Haley joined later on and — though he suffered negative effects too — the production team at least shifted from a aluminum powder to more of a paste.


‘The Wizard of Oz’: How Production Made the Twister that Dropped Judy Garland in Oz

Judy Garland is still most remembered for ‘The Wizard of Oz’

Garland — and, in fact, the rest of The Wizard of Oz cast — are still remembered for their work in the film. And indeed, few movies can declare such a long life filled with so much love. Nevertheless, it’s tragic that those directly involved in the movie suffered such terrible circumstances while making it.

Thankfully, today, safeguards are in place to protect actors and crew members from the kinds of abuse Garland, Bolger, Hamilton, Haley, and Bert Lahr — who played the Cowardly Lion — faced. The Wizard of Oz, of course, lives on. But its horrific on-set practices have largely fallen by the wayside.